FOR many years the Cold Storage Company (CSC) has remained a sleeping giant despite its economic potential. Saddled with legacy debts running into millions of dollars owed to different creditors accrued since adoption of the multiple currency system in 2009, CSC has been in the red, failing to attract lines of credit to reboot its operations.
Finally a ray of hope is filtering through for the Bulawayo headquartered firm with the coming on board of the National Social Security Authority (NSSA), which has availed an initial $18 million capital injection. We commend this strategic partnership, which we believe will help rescuscitate the company, impact positively on downstream industries and create more job opportunities.
We are enthused by the swift move by the Government to announce a new CSC board, which reflects a new commitment to fully turn around the company.
The new board includes three members from the National Social Security Authority (NSSA) because they have invested in CSC.
Mrs Sylvia Khumalo Jiyane chairs the board and is deputised by Mr Nemrod Chiminya who is a seasoned technical person. Mr Chiminya is expected to bring his expertise in tobacco to assist in the livestock sector.
Committee members are Mrs Emily Mumbengegwi, Mr Peter Nyoni, Mrs Cecilia Paradza, Mr Bekhithemba Nkomo, Dr Anxious Masuka, Mrs Rufaro Mazunze, Mr Khodholo Setaboli, Ministry of Agriculture representatives, Dr Unesu Ushewokunze Obatolu, an animal research expert and Engineer Reston Muzamhindo.
In announcing the new board last week, Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Minister Dr Joseph Made said CSC’s revival was tied to revitalisation of the broader livestock sector under the Command Livestock programme, a Government-driven initiative to spur the livestock value chain economy similar to the successful Command Agriculture in the cropping sector.
“The board is expected to focus on the strategic direction of re-building the national herd so the country can revive its beef export markets particularly in Europe and Asia.
“The new board should pay particular attention to the communal sector, which holds the highest number of livestock in terms of the beef sector. Of the 5,6 million herd of cattle, the biggest number comes from the communal sector,” said Dr Made.
“Of interest to this board is the gender balance and as Minister of Agriculture I expect this board to deal with matters that relate to the management in terms of resuscitating opportunities of the workers, paying attention to employment creation,” he said.
We concur with Dr Made that CSC plays a vital role in Bulawayo and other livestock producing areas in the southern region as a major employer.
“I hope the development of the livestock through Command Agriculture will have a ripple effect across the country,” he said.
Given this policy support and funding from NSSA, the new CSC board has no reason to procrastinate. They should hit the ground running and prove their mettle. We believe application of prudent management practices and hard work will no doubt enable the country to meet the targeted $2 billion beef exports.
Zimbabwe last sold beef to major markets in August 2001 after its $2 billion export quota was suspended on the back of a foot-and-mouth disease outbreak that saw the European Union invoke stringent animal disease control regulations.
Indeed demand for Zimbabwean beef is still high in the EU and CSC should move with speed to supply this market. We also urge the Ministry of Agriculture and the Veterinary Services Department to pull all the stops to FMD, which is under control and ensure high quality standards on local beef products.
As beneficiaries of the new investment, livestock farmers should also play their part by developing commercial mindsets and improving the intensity of their production to complement CSC. This also includes capacity building and knowledge sharing towards improving animal genetics, pastures and the calving rate.
Head of the EU Delegation to Zimbabwe Ambassador Philippe Van Damme has confirmed the bloc’s huge appetite for Zimbabwe’s beef.
Since 1992, CSC largely survived on EU exports and had a $15 million revolving payment facility with the bloc. The company, which owns four abattoirs, used to employ 1 500 permanent workers and an average 700 casual workers, making it one of the biggest employers in the country.
At one time CSC was the largest meat processor in Africa, handling up to 150 000 tonnes of beef and associated by-products a year and exporting beef to the EU, where it had an annual quota of 9 100 tonnes of beef. We believe the support rendered to the company enables it to regain its footing and grow its business.